Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Mother's Son: Miki Goldwasser remembers her son Udi on Remembrance Day

As we once again remember the more than 22 thousand soldiers and civilians who have been killed in wars and acts of terror, we living in Israel cannot help but wonder how women such as Miki Goldwasser, the mother of Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser, can go from being in a state of sad remembering to one of joy when Yom HaZicharon (Soldiers Remembrance Day) changes in just 24 hours to the festivities of Yom HaAtzmaut.

Ehud Goldwasser, together with another soldier, Eldad Regev, were kidnapped on July 12, 2006 by the Hezbollah along the border with Lebanon. For two agonizing years, their exact fate had been unknown (at least to their loved ones) until their bodies were finally returned to Israel in two black boxes on July 16, 2008, virtually 2 years after their Humvee jeep had been attacked by enemy fire. Along with Udi's wife Carnit, his mother Miki had waged a relentless campaign to have him returned to his family, only to have him come home as another fallen soldier.

Miki was recently interviewed by the Jerusalem Post, during which time she talked about her son and what kind of person he had been during his short life of only 31 years. She recalled how he had become so much in love with life, and with his country and his wife, with whom he had planned to raise a family following their graduation from university (they were both graduate students at the Technion when the Lebanon II war broke out). She spoke about Udi's childhood and how, from a very early age, he had decided that he could live nowhere else but in Israel.

Udi's love of life was shown many times during his life, both at home, in school, in the army, and especially with Carnit, the love of his life, and childhood sweetheart. Although Udi had lived abroad with his parents from time to time (his father Shlomo was a merchant marine ship captain) Udi knew that he could live his life only in the country he loved. Miki recalled how her son had once told her that even though it was comfortable living in places like South Africa, he could only fulfill himself by living in Israel. He and Carnit were together for more than nine years before they finally married, and were only together as husband and wife for 10 months before that fateful day in July, 2006.

Both Miki and Shlomo have been active in the ongoing campaign to free captive soldier Gilad Schalit, and they have been regular visitors to the Schalit home in Moshav Mitzpeh Hilla in the Western Galilee. They understand what Noam and Aviva Schalit, Gilad's parents, are going through. And she is even more determined to perpetuate Udi's memory by helping other families whose sons have also fallen for the country they loved.

This is just one example of the brave young men and women who dedicate themselves to their country; and to their parents – ones like Miki and Shlomo Goldwasser.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Hopes rise for release of captive Israeli soldier


There appears to be increased optimism that captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit may soon be released from his nearly 3 year captivity by Hamas militants in Gaza. Schalit, whose army armor corps unit was attacked on June 25, 2006 while on patrol alongside Israel's Kerem Shalom border area; was taken back to Gaza by his captors following the ambush on his armored personnel carrier in which two Israeli soldiers were killed and three were wounded. Since then, no actual photographs or video films have been shown to indicate his condition, and only three letters have been given to his parents, Noam and Aviva, to confirm that the young soldier is alive.

Since his capture, intense local and international efforts have been made to secure his release from a captivity that is now in its 961st day. Until now, the release of the young soldier, who has been promoted to Staff Sergeant, has been delayed numerous times by unacceptable demands made by Hamas which has included releasing more than 1,000 Palestinians including several who have been found responsible for involvement in a number of deadly terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

A number of countries have tried to intervene on Schalit's behalf, including European ones like Germany and France. Due to his holding French nationality, Schalit was recently named an Honorary Citizen of Paris. Even the Catholic Church has tried to gain his release, through its representatives in Gaza; but until now, these efforts have been to no avail. Gilad's parents have been involved in a number of international rallies to gain more attention to the plight of their son; and recently, Aviva Schalit was featured on a weekend news magazine for the Israeli Channel 2 TVnetwork.

Following the 22 day Operation Cast Lead military actions between Israel and Hamas, diplomatic efforts have been stepped up on Schalit's behalf, and several meetings have been held in Cairo to work out a deal to gain his release. The Hamas organization, whose infrastructure was severely damaged during the war, which also left more than 1.300 Palestinians dead, appear to want to enter into a long period of quiet with Israel in order for them to rebuild installations damaged or destroyed. Schalit himself was reported by his captors to have been injured by explosions during the action.

Schalit's release is now a top priority for the Israeli government and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other government officials are demanding that Schalit be released before Israel agrees to enter into a serious truce with Hamas and other Islamic terror organizations in Gaza. For their part, the Hamas leadership seems to be more in favor of the young soldier's release, providing certain "conditions" be met, including opening of border crossings to allow sufficient aid and supplies to enter the place that many people refer to as an "open air prison". There is also the matter of exchanging hundreds of Palestinian militants for a young man who never harmed anyone and only joined the army unit he was stationed in because he considered it his duty, since his elder brother Yoel had also served in this unit.

All everyone can hope for now is that Gilad is alive and in some measure of good health, despite the suffering that both he and his family have endured during this long period.

JPost.com - Headlines

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